When the department’s Hamilton Street building is redeveloped within a few years, it will serve a dual purpose as a fire station and an office building.
Lee Perry, development director of East West Partners Management Company, which was hired to develop the station, said it would resemble a private-public development in Alexandria, Va. that houses both a fire station and an apartment complex.
The fire station will be on the ground floor of the new building, while the rest will house rentable office space.
Chapel Hill Fire Chief Dan Jones said the dual nature of the redevelopment project will help the town save on the costs of construction and increase tax revenue for Chapel Hill, while simultaneously giving the fire department the resources necessary to continue protecting the town.
“This is a great way to go about creating public safety facilities,” Jones said. “It’s a win-win all around.”
In a Chapel Hill Town Council meeting Monday, the council gave the go ahead to begin planning the reconstruction of the fire station.
“The station was built in 1959 for three people and is now used by four or five people most days,” Jones said.
As the town grows, Jones said he expects the station will need to accommodate at least nine or 10 people at a time, which far exceeds the current building’s capacity.
He said the department has also struggled with the rising maintenance costs of the old building.
“The station doesn’t just need renovation; it needs replacement altogether,” he said.
Perry said the redevelopment project will cost around $12 million in total and take about 15 months to complete. Plans for the station are in the preliminary stages, and construction isn’t expected to start for about a year and half.
Jones said the department hopes to finish the station by 2017.
According to a draft plan presented at the council meeting, the new station is expected to include dormitory space with individually partitioned areas, a decontamination cleaning room and a classroom that seats 15 personnel, among other additions.
Bryan Walker, spokesman for the Chapel Hill Police Department, said the police department has run into similar problems with overcrowding and is looking to schedule a meeting with the town council to discuss redevelopment options.
Walker said there is no room at police headquarters anymore, and the department has been forced to convert closets into server rooms and offices to house the department’s growing needs.
“The problem is that we’ve outgrown our building,” Walker said.
“The town has grown considerably, and we have as well.”